An Apprenticeship on Steroids: Preserving Digital Materials The Third

I was inspired to write this blog post thanks to New Cardigan’s Glam Blog Club October 2017 theme, “How I Ended Up Here”. When I saw the theme, I immediately thought: how did I end up co-writing a book, just a year after finally graduating from information management school? How did I get here? This post seeks to answer this question, and introduce a project I’ve been working on for the last year: a tome called Preserving Digital Materials (the third edition).

I am not a new professional in the strict sense of the phrase, having had a long-ish first career in television broadcasting. Writing the third edition of this book has been an apprenticeship on steroids – a great way to learn a lot about the important and exciting digital preservation field, in a very short time frame.

The short version of how I got here involves serendipity, luck, and perseverance. The perseverance part involved a meandering career change while still paying the bills with television work. I first studied teaching English as a foreign language, then professional writing, before settling on a Master of Information Management degree, with a lot of volunteering thrown in to help me best find my corner of the info universe. I love wrangling digital information, and I’ve always been fascinated by long-term thinking, so digital preservation is a perfect fit for me. As for serendipity and luck, one of my (many) volunteering gigs with the Australian Library Journal introduced me to then-editor Ross Harvey. When Ross was contemplating kicking off with the third edition of Preserving Digital Materials and looking for a co-author, I was in the right place at the right time. I was able to bring to the book different professional experience, and different ways of thinking – television is a colourful, competitive, and challenging world, with many transferable skills (collaboration and communication are two of the most immediate that come to mind).

The first two editions of this book were written by Ross. The first was based on interviews he undertook with Australian information professionals in the year 2005, thus it had a very national focus. The second edition in 2012 branched out further afield – it added various international projects and perspectives. It has been a fascinating experience, looking back over 17 years and seeing what has changed in the digital world – and what is still the same.

PDM3CoverThis third edition (to be published in March 2018 by US-based publisher Rowman & Littlefield) is an altogether different beast again. It has had a significant structural overhaul, and it is very internationally focussed. New stakeholders feature as a key focus, as digital preservation is no longer a niche area mainly of interest to cultural heritage institutions. New players are entering the scene and it is a welcome change, bringing many opportunities and also inevitable challenges. Initiatives such as International Digital Preservation Day from the Digital Preservation Coalition are increasingly publicly focussed, while still catering to the interests of traditional information organisations. Initiatives like these helpfully drive a positive digital preservation agenda to a wider range of people, and we have documented this changing paradigm in the book.

I very much hope this book is of use to both information professionals dealing with long-term management of digital materials, and others from different fields who are interested in learning more about the importance of stewarding digital materials into the future.

Another big thank you goes out to all my friends and family who put up with me during this process and are still hanging around. I promise one day soon I will have a social life again. Unless the fourth edition of this book needs writing a lot sooner than expected…

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